Baruch College, CUNY

Profs. Thomas Harbison and Luke Waltzer
Course blog:
Please send emails to both and
MW 5:50-7:05 | Classroom: VC 9-170
Office hours: MW 4:00-5:00pm, or by appointment | Office location: 137 E. 25th St., Room 320

Course Description
Welcome to Digital History. This course will explore current methods in the field, and also imagine future possibilities. You will study a range of theories of new media and employ them as you collect, analyze, and produce historical scholarship. Throughout the course we will assess how and why the creation, archiving, and interpretation of historical data are changing in the face of new forms of digital communication. We will also examine how these tools impact the primary goal of the historian: producing narratives that explain historical change. You will learn about and work with emerging tools in the areas of data mining, graphic information systems, image and audio production, and social media. With classmates, you will produce a digital project using data and artifacts that historicize the 2012 presidential election.

Learning Goals
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with past and emergent trends in digital history, assess the quality and goals of existing digital history projects, select and deploy a digital toolbox while doing history, and publish historical materials in public spaces while respecting and adhering to the increasingly complex rules of intellectual property rights.

This class assumes that all students have prior experience studying history, and are somewhat familiar with traditional history methodologies. As such, prior completion of History 1000 or 1005 is required.

It is important that you attend all classes. We will study topics and practice with digital tools that are not covered by your work outside of class. More than two unexcused absences will affect your overall grade one full letter. You may be dropped from the class if you have more than four absences. Repeated lateness will affect your grade.

Classroom Etiquette
We expect all students to treat one another and the professors with the utmost respect. All participants in the class should feel free to disagree with and challenge one another and the professors, but must do so respectfully and with a total focus on the ideas being exchanged. Personal attacks of any kind will not be tolerated. Keep it about the ideas.

Academic Honesty
The Department of History fully supports Baruch College’s policy on Academic Honesty, which states, in part: “Academic dishonesty is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Cheating, forgery, plagiarism and collusion in dishonest acts undermine the college’s educational mission and the students’ personal and intellectual growth. Baruch students are expected to bear individual responsibility for their work, to learn the rules and definitions that underlie the practice of academic integrity, and to uphold its ideals. Ignorance of the rules is not an acceptable excuse for disobeying them. Any student who attempts to compromise or devalue the academic process will be sanctioned.”

Academic sanctions in this class will range from an F on the assignment to an F in this course. A report of suspected academic dishonesty will be sent to the Office of the Dean of Students. Additional information and definitions can be found at

You do not need to purchase a textbook for this course. All readings are available in electronic form, either linked from the course website or through E-Reserve at the Newman Library. You are expected to complete all readings by class time on the day that they are listed in the schedule below.

For most assignments, you will either publish a blog post or a series of comments to the course site. Specific instructions will be given on the site and announced in class on a weekly basis.

Assignments: Due at 8:00 am on the day they are noted. Students should make every effort to read each other’s posts before class meets that day.
Comments: You must comment on at least one other post on the course blog by Wednesday at 10:00 am.

Final Project
Over the course of the semester you will work with a group to build a piece of digital history using artifacts and data from historical presidential elections as well as those that emerge during the 2012 presidential race. This project will require you to pose a question and answer it in a digital form. It must digest and integrate components of the following: spatial history, data mining and analysis, textual analysis, and visual and aural culture.

You will get two grades for the final project. The first is a group grade that takes into account the overall quality and thoughtfulness of your project, your group’s meeting of benchmarks along the way, and the presentation your group makes to the class at the end of the semester. The second is an individual grade based on an 8-10 page paper you will hand in on the final day of class that describes your contributions to the project, the choices your group made, and articulates how your project embodies the ideas we engaged during the course.

We will devote significant time in class and on our class blog to discussion of your projects, as well as the rubric we’ll use to assess them.

Final Grades will be calculated as follows:
Attendance/Participation: 20%
Assignments: 30%
Final project (group/presentation grade): 25%
Final project (individual grade): 25%

Course Schedule (subject to change… and it will!)

Week 1: Baselines
Goals: Survey the field, establish a common lexicon, assess the technical capabilities/resources of the students in the class.

Aug 27: Introductions

Aug 29: Lexicon and tools

Assignment due September 5:
Work for at least an hour with a digital tool that you have not used before, and write a post of no more than 500 words about the tool and how it might fit into the work of doing digital history.

Click here for the replacement assignment for September 5. 


Week 2: Collaboration
Goals: Establish the centrality of collaboration to doing digital history; identify a set of tools that facilitate collaboration.

Sep 3: No class — Labor Day

Sep 5: Collaboration

Assignment due September 10:
Using BuddyPress Docs in our course group on Blogs@Baruch, make an index of entries that reference a topic on Wikipedia that we will choose together in class. Each student must make at least one edit to an entry. You then must list and link to your edits in our group document.

See here for the replacement assignment for September 10. 

Week 3: Intellectual Property and Ethics
Goals: Engage the complexity and contours for conflict around questions of intellectual property in the digital age; map what these questions mean for the doing of history.

Sep 10: Intellectual property and fair use

  • Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History, “Owning the Past?”

Sep 12: Network ethics and historical knowledge

Assignment due September 19:
1) Explore Write a post of less than 500 words defining the approach members of this community take to questions of intellectual property, fair use, and network ethics.
2) Your group must settle on a topic idea, to be discussed in class on September 19.

See here for the replacement assignments for September 17 and 19. 

Week 4: Research I
Goals: Learn to navigate a range of digital sources in online databases and archives to formulate and answer historical questions.

Sep 17: No class

Sep 19: Doing historical research online

Assignment due September 24:
Group project proposal due on blog, supported by a list of sources. This will be discussed further in class.

See here for the replacement assignment for September 24.

Week 5: Research II
Goals: Define the meaning of “the archives” in digital space, and practice skills necessary to hunt down evidence.

Sep 24: Navigating digital archives

Sep 26: No class

Assignment due October 1:
Archival scavenger hunt; topic to be discussed in class.

See here for the replacements assignments for 9/28 and 10/1


Week 6: Archiving History Digitally
Goals: Trace how archives have changed, and imagine how they might continue to change (in how they are created, preserved, and accessed) in the digital age.

Oct 1: Imagining the digital archive

Oct 3: Producing the digital archive

Assignment due October 10:
Spend at least one hour exploring a digital archive (we’ll provide you a list to choose from). Write a post of less than 500 words explaining how this archive was constructed, by whom, for what purpose, and what historical arguments it is making. What does the archive reveal about the evolution of archives in the digital age? What traditional attributes is it retaining? How does it receive visitors? How is information selected for inclusion? How is information organized, and presented?

See here for the replacements assignments for 10/8 and 10/10


Week 7: Data Mining and Textual Analysis
Goals: Compare different methods of data analysis within the fields of digital humanities and compare the strengths and weaknesses of each. Determine which historical questions can adequately be answered through data mining techniques and which cannot.

Oct 8: No class

Oct 10: Mining text data

Assignment due October 15:
Revised group proposal due. Each group must assesses whether or not text mining has value for their project.

See here for the replacements assignment for 10/15 and here for the assignment for 10/17

Week 8: Maps and Spatial Analysis
Goals: Explore the range of ways maps are being used in the making of digital history. Develop skill set necessary to effectively analyze maps deployed in support of historical arguments.

Oct 15: Surveying the historical uses of spatial analysis

Oct 17: Applying spatial analysis to a single historical question

Assignment due October 22:
Create a historical map related to your project topic using one of the tools covered in class (each member of the group must produce a map). Post the map along with a 2-3 paragraph discussion of the potential value of this tool for your project and to historians more generally.

Click here for the replacement assignment due October 22.


Week 9: Presenting Data Graphically
Goals: Assess how the advent of big data and digitization tools have influenced the visual culture of digital history. Develop a rubric for assessing effective presentation of data.

Oct 22: Presenting complex data accurately and efficiently

Oct 24: Organizing and formatting historical data

Assignment due October 29:
Identify and collect a set of data that answers one historical question implicated in your project. Create a graph, table, or timeline that communicates your findings to classmates outside of your group.

Click here for replacement assignment for Oct. 29


Week 10: Images [Note: classes cancelled this week for Hurricane Sandy]
Goals: Read and analyze images as primary historical sources. Integrate images with text and other media to communicate newly crafted historical arguments. Explore the implications of emerging modes of visual literacy for doing history.

Oct 29: New forms of visual history, 1850-2000

Oct 31: Judging the reliability of photographs

Click here for updated assignment due Nov. 5 and
here for assignment due Nov. 7

Goals: Track in real-time the processes by which a shared national experience is recorded and remembered during the immediate aftermath.  Cover goals from last week (due to cancellation of classes for Hurricane Sandy).

Nov 5: Choose tools that we will use to document Tuesdays events

Nov 7: Compile and organize election data

Assignment due November 12:
Detailed group project outline due (in form of site map — click here for details).


Week 12: Video and Audio
Goals: Explore the evolving possibilities of video and audio production for digital history.

Nov 12: What can the history of the documentary teach us about doing digital history?

Nov 14: Everyone now has a microphone and a recorder. What does this mean for digital history?

Assignments due November 16 and November 21:
Do an assignment from the DS106 Video or Audio Assignment Bank. Your production must have an historical argument. When you embed it on our blog, articulate that argument in no more than 300 words. Post a brief proposal for your idea to the course blog by November 16.

See here for replacement assignments for November 19 and 21. 


Week 13: Public History in the Digital Age
Goals: Define the goals of public history and identify the ways in which digital tools enable historians to achieve them. Explore the differences between academic history and public history. Articulate how public history is changing in the digital age.

Nov 19: The goals of public history

Nov 21: No Class

Assignment due November 26:
As a group, be prepared to present to the class how your project echoes or departs from the norms of doing public history identified in the previous week’s discussion.
See here for revised assignment. 


Week 14: Social Media
Goals: Understand how social media is changing the ways that historical research can be done and presented.

Nov 26: The evolving possibilities of public history

Nov 28: Social media and history

Work on your group project.


Week 15: Simulations and Games
Goals: Assess the impact of gamification on the construction of historical narrative.

Dec 3:

Dec 5:

As a class we will design (but not build!) a historical game.


Week 16: Presentations
Goals: Be wowed.

Dec 10: Presentations 1

Dec 12: Presentations 2

Assignment due December 14:
Your group project, and your final paper.


This syllabus borrows from courses taught by Jeff McClurken, Dan Cohen, Trevor Owens, Sharon Leon, Cheryl Smith, Erica Kaufman, and the ds106 community. Baruch’s intrepid user experience librarian Stephen Francoeur has also been a big help.  We thank them for their generosity and openness.